Dealing with Contaminated Currency and Coins

Contaminated Paper Money Procedures

Contaminated currency is paper money that cannot be processed under normal operating procedures because it has been damaged by or exposed to contaminants, poses a health hazard or safety risk to workers or the public.

Contamination, as defined by these Federal Reserve rules, is generally currency giving off offensive odors and/or displaying mold-like conditions.  Contamination may include:

  • Damaged by a flood or other extended exposure to water or other liquids
  • Exposure to human or animal blood, urine, feces or any other bodily fluids, including removal from any body cavity, corpse or animal (can we say gross together?)
  • Exposure to sewers or sewage
  • Exposure to any foreign substance or chemical which may pose a health hazard or safety risk.  This includes dye-packs used to combat armed robbery 
  • Mold or mildew

The receiving bank should collect as much information as possible about the type and extent of the contamination before contacting the local Cash Office to deposit Contaminated Currency.  If you are preparing to deposit contaminated currency be prepared to provide as much information as possible.

The Federal Reserve Banks have developed special deposit requirements for the treatment of contaminated currency. The requirements are designed to help protect the safety of staff at the Federal Reserve Banks and within the financial institution.  As a client, you need to be aware of these requirements so you can prepare the contaminated currency properly.

How to Prepare Contaminated Currency for Deposit

Prepare a contaminated currency deposit using the following step-by-step process:

  • Keep the contaminated currency separate from clean funds.
  • Contaminated currency should be separated by bill denomination, in straps of 100 notes and bundles of 10 straps, where possible.
  • Less than 100 notes of a single bill denomination should be strapped and marked with the unit count and dollar amount. If required, the bank may choose to forego the strapping requirement and staple the notes in a fan shape in such a way that each note can be clearly denominated and piece counted.
  • Double bag the contaminated currency. 

a) Inner Bag:  The inner bag must be a clear plastic currency bag that is strong and tamper-evident. These bags can be purchased through the bank.  

Alternatively, an autoclave bag may be available through the bank where the closest Federal Reserve location has internal sterilization equipment.

b) Outer Bag: Like the inner bag, the outer bag should be a strong, tamper-evident, clear plastic currency bag used by your institution for depositing with the Federal Reserve Banks.

However, in large-scale natural disaster (such as hurricane aftermath) that results in an unusually large amount of contaminated currency which is exposed to a number of unknown toxins, the Federal Reserve Banks will provide upon request and free of charge special bags with moisture and oxygen barriers that are designed to provide leak and odor protection against the contaminated currency.  If this applies to your business, ask your bank for assistance obtaining these special bags.

  • No extraneous items should be inside or between the inner and outer bags. The Federal Reserve considers extraneous items to include paper clips, the deposit ticket, and any other type of document or bag tag.  Just put the strapped or stapled currency inside. 
  • The word “CONTAMINATED” should be written in permanent marker and large letters on the outside of the outer currency bag.
  • Have your bank complete a separate Federal Reserve Bank deposit ticket providing the denominational breakdown and total of the contaminated currency and attach this deposit ticket to the outer bag.
  • Your bank will need to provide advance notice on a FedCash Services Contaminated Currency form via email or fax.  This form requires details of the deposit from you.  Without the advance notification or proper packaging the deposit may be rejected.

Currency Exposed to Bio-terrorist Agents or Chemicals 

The rules for contaminated currency do not apply to currency that has been exposed to a bio-terrorist agent (either biological or chemical). Please contact your local Cash office for specific instructions on handling currency exposed to a bio-terrorist agent.

Burnt Currency Dealt With Separately

Burnt currency is considered mutilated, not contaminated (unless it was also contaminated) and is subject to the mutilated currency procedures. 

"The Federal Reserve DOES NOT accept deposits of mutilated currency. Mutilated currency must be sent directly to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) with a letter stating the estimated value of the currency and an explanation of how the currency became mutilated."

If the mutilated currency is also contaminated it needs to be double bagged the same as outlined above, but sent to the BEP instead.

If more than 50% of the notes are intact or the notes are just dirty or worn they do not need to be treated as mutilated. 

How to Deal With Contaminated Coin

The Federal Reserve system will not accept deposits of Contaminated Coin.  Instead, Contaminated Coin must be uncontaminated according to guidelines established by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for decontamination of "Other Household Surfaces and Items".

This is from the CDC site: 

How to Clean and Sanitize Other Household Surfaces and Items

Surfaces that do not soak up water, and that may have touched floodwater or other contaminated liquids (Examples: floors, stoves, sinks, certain toys, countertops, flat ware, plates, tools, and coins), should be cleaned in the following manner.

  1. Clean surface with soap and clean water.
  2. Disinfect with a mixture of 1 cup of bleach to 5 gallons of water. For more information please visit 
  3. Allow to air dry.    

In the context of coins, you will want to put all the nasty coins in a bucket with a tight screen top.  Add warm water and soap to the bucket and add coins.  Stir.  Than strain the water off and refill the bucket with water and bleach mix.  

Spread the cleaned coins out to dry, perhaps with a fan blowing on them.  Once you have clean dry coin you can contact your bank to deposit the coin normally.  This is not considered money laundering. 

Contaminated coinsCredit: portlandmint.comCredit: